'The Valley Of The Black Pig' by William Butler Yeats

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The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears
Suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,
And then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries
Of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears.
We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,
The grey caim on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
Being weary of the world's empires, bow down to you.
Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Valley of the Black Pig by William Butler Yeats: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Oh, dear reader! Let me take you on a journey through the mystical and enchanting world of William Butler Yeats' The Valley of the Black Pig. This classic poem is a masterpiece of Irish literature and a true gem of Yeats' poetic legacy. It is a poem filled with symbolism, imagery, and mythology that explores the themes of death, rebirth, and the cyclical nature of life. So, without further ado, let us delve into the depths of this poetic wonderland.

Overview and Themes

The Valley of the Black Pig is a poem that is steeped in Irish mythology and folklore. It presents a vivid depiction of the ancient Irish festival of Samhain, a celebration that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. The poem is set in a valley where a great feast is taking place, and the narrator describes the various sights and sounds of the celebration. However, the mood of the poem takes a darker turn as the narrator starts to reveal the darker side of the festivities.

The poem explores the themes of death and rebirth, the cycle of life, and the existence of the supernatural. Yeats uses the ancient Irish myth of the black pig to symbolize death, which is seen as a necessary part of the natural cycle of life. The poem also explores the idea of the cyclical nature of life, where death leads to rebirth and renewal. The supernatural elements in the poem add to the mystical and otherworldly feel, creating a sense of otherness that is often associated with the Irish landscape.

Symbolism and Imagery

Yeats uses a range of symbols and imagery in The Valley of the Black Pig to convey his message. The most prominent symbol in the poem is the black pig, which is a representation of death. The pig is described as having "shaggy hair and tusks of mould" and is seen as a terrifying and formidable figure. However, the pig is also seen as a necessary part of the natural cycle of life, as it is responsible for the renewal of the land.

The valley itself is also a symbol, representing the natural world and the cycle of life. The green grass and the trees are seen as symbols of growth and renewal, while the mist that covers the valley is a symbol of the supernatural and the otherworldly.

The imagery in the poem is vivid and evocative, with Yeats using language that is both lyrical and powerful. The feast is described as a "great fire" that "flares and sinks upon the crest of some exultant music", creating a sense of excitement and energy. The black pig is described as having "eyes like coals" and "tusks of mould", adding to its terrifying nature.

Structure and Form

The Valley of the Black Pig is a poem that is written in free verse, with no set rhyme scheme or meter. This allows Yeats to experiment with language and structure, creating a poem that is both fluid and dynamic. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which presents a different aspect of the celebration.

The first stanza is focused on the sights and sounds of the feast, with the narrator describing the music, the food, and the people. The second stanza is where the mood of the poem starts to shift, as the narrator reveals the darker side of the festivities. This is where the black pig is introduced, and the poem takes on a more ominous tone. The third stanza is where the poem reaches its climax, as the pig is hunted down and killed, only to be reborn again.


The Valley of the Black Pig is a poem that is open to interpretation, with different readers seeing different meanings and themes in the text. However, one interpretation of the poem is that it is a meditation on the cycle of life and the inevitability of death. The black pig symbolizes death, but it is also responsible for the renewal of the land, highlighting the idea that death is a necessary part of the natural cycle of life.

The poem can also be interpreted as a commentary on the darker aspects of human nature. The feast is presented as a celebration of life, but it is also a place of violence and death. The fact that the people at the feast are willing to kill and eat the black pig shows the darker side of human nature, and the fact that the pig is reborn at the end of the poem suggests that this cycle of violence and death will continue.


In conclusion, The Valley of the Black Pig is a masterful poem that explores complex themes and ideas through vivid imagery and powerful language. Yeats' use of symbolism, imagery, and mythology creates a sense of otherworldliness and mysticism that is often associated with Irish literature. The poem presents a meditation on the cycle of life and the inevitability of death, as well as a commentary on the darker aspects of human nature. It is a poem that rewards close reading and interpretation, and one that will continue to captivate and inspire readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Valley of the Black Pig: A Masterpiece of Irish Mythology

William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, was a master of Irish mythology. His poem, The Valley of the Black Pig, is a prime example of his ability to weave together ancient legends and modern themes into a powerful and evocative work of art.

The poem is set in the valley of the River Moy, in County Sligo, Ireland. The valley is known for its rich history and mythology, and Yeats draws on this background to create a vivid and haunting landscape. The valley is described as a place of mystery and danger, where the spirits of the dead roam freely and the ancient gods still hold sway.

The central image of the poem is the black pig, a symbol of death and rebirth in Irish mythology. The pig is said to be a messenger of the goddess Morrigan, who presides over death and transformation. In the poem, the pig is described as a monstrous creature, with eyes that glow like fire and a voice that echoes through the valley. It is a fearsome presence, but also a source of power and inspiration.

The poem is structured around a series of visions or dreams, in which the speaker is transported to different parts of the valley and encounters various supernatural beings. In the first vision, the speaker sees a group of women dancing by the river, their hair and clothing flowing in the wind. These women are the banshees, or fairy women, who are said to foretell death and disaster. They are a reminder of the fragility of life and the inevitability of death.

In the second vision, the speaker sees a group of warriors riding through the valley, their swords flashing in the sun. These warriors are the Tuatha De Danann, the ancient gods of Ireland, who were said to have fought a great battle against the forces of darkness. They represent the power and glory of the past, and the speaker is filled with a sense of awe and reverence.

In the third vision, the speaker sees the black pig itself, standing on a hilltop and surveying the valley below. The pig is a terrifying sight, but also a symbol of the power of death and transformation. The speaker is filled with a sense of awe and wonder, and realizes that the pig is a messenger from the otherworld, a realm of spirits and magic.

In the final vision, the speaker sees a group of people gathered around a fire, singing and dancing. These people are the living, who are celebrating the cycle of life and death. They are a reminder that even in the face of death and darkness, there is still joy and beauty in the world.

The Valley of the Black Pig is a complex and multi-layered poem, full of symbolism and meaning. It is a meditation on the nature of life and death, and the power of myth and legend to shape our understanding of the world. It is also a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of Ireland, and a tribute to the enduring power of its mythology and folklore.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of language and imagery. Yeats was a master of poetic language, and his use of vivid and evocative imagery creates a powerful sense of atmosphere and mood. The valley is described in rich detail, with its misty hills and dark forests, its rushing rivers and ancient stones. The supernatural beings that inhabit the valley are equally vivid, from the banshees with their wild hair and piercing cries, to the Tuatha De Danann with their shining

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